Inclusive design and cultural heritage
Accesible interior & paths, Urquhart Castle, Highlands
Ensuring the accessibility of existing buildings, particularly those whose built form is of cultural or historic significance, can often give rise to conflicting requirements.
It is recognised that the cultural or historic significance of a building or structure is a relevant factor in determining reasonableness under the terms of the DDA. Preservation of the character of a building may be a valid reason for not making certain physical adjustments to remove barriers to access. This does not mean a building cannot be altered in a sensitive fashion, or prevent the owner or operator of such a building circumventing barriers through appropriate policies, practices and procedures. Historic Scotland will support imaginative proposals which complement the special character of historic buildings and improve access for everyone.
Scottish Ministers seek to ensure that the special interest of historic buildings and ancient monuments is protected. In the case of listed buildings, an active reuse is desirable through a process of managed change. The long-term management of scheduled ancient monuments is similarly desirable, although their nature may mean that there is less flexibility.
Planning authorities can designate parts of the area within their jurisdiction as conservation areas by reason of their special architectural or historic interest. The purpose of this is to preserve or enhance the character or appearance of such areas and the spaces between them. Therefore, care also needs to be taken regarding changes to the streetscape.
The special architectural and/or historic importance of listed buildings, conservation areas and scheduled ancient monuments may mean that a balance has to be struck between accessibility and the preservation of the structure and its interest. However, with careful thought, sensitive solutions to provide appropriate access can almost always be found.
In a small number of cases, the form of the physical barriers to access may contribute significantly to the cultural and historic importance of a building to the extent that their removal or alteration will be inappropriate. If the preferred access option is not possible, every effort should be made to find an acceptable alternative. Although works that could be removed at a later date without damage to the historic fabric are often desirable, reversibility must not be used to justify development which relates poorly to the building.
Electronic doors, Queens Gallery, Edinburgh